TALES FROM THE COOP

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TOXIN VOTE DEFEATED BY ICE CREAM CAVALRY

After the usual grandstanding before the main agenda, last week's monthly governing meeting had a meaty argument over possibly-toxic-product boycotts. This report guaranteed 73% accurate!

A newbie started the Open Forum by griping that a posted photo of the coop's worst shoplifter was not just an affront to her as an African-American, but proof of systemic demonization of the black man in our racist society's media, the study of which happened to be her career. A coordinator agreed that the photo had been up long enough, but explained that the man had stolen up to $40,000 of stuff by exploiting the coop's frequent staff rotations, and that after his capture, conviction, and imprisonment for theft from us, he had returned, violating a restraining order. The member often interrupted the coordinator, trying to get the latter to soften her description of the thief -- who had finally been caught, after dozens of visits, with his shirt full of razor blades for resale -- with "hypothesized that he had," "possibly," and "who happened to be black."

Andy Kaufman then whined that the coop newsletter had not reported his whining at the last general meeting. He asked for future access to meeting minutes to correct such errors. Not for himself, necessarily, but for all members, old and young, hairy and bald, in the cooperative spirit of democratic freedom of information. Problem is, there are no minutes. Disappointed, he then announced that he was running for the board of directors and waved a proxy form for supporters to sign. No one took one.

After a current member of the board ended the Open Forum by complaining that a comic in the coop newspaper had multiple meanings, the very cute chair began the main agenda.

The product-ban proposal came from an earnest, well-spoken member who wanted to nuke products with PPA (a cough-medicine ingredient), rGBH (a milk-increasing synthetic hormone squirted into moo-cows), and bleach. Three rounds of discussion split the debaters into pro- and anti-toxin camps. The pro-toxins opposed paternalistic restriction of their freedom of choice. The anti-toxins supported protecting members and taking responsibility to oppose the market for bad things by boycotting them. The pro-toxins noted the small evidence for PPA's ill effects, and the potential wipeout of our dairy products since few producers swear to avoid a synthetic hormone that cannot even be detected separately from the natural hormone. The anti-toxins swore their data was sound (debatable!), and that rGBH levels could be tested (a blatant, ideological lie). The best laughs came when a pro-toxin speaker pretended to be Joseph McCarthy, waving an imaginary paper and announcing "I have here in my hand a list of" rGBH-contaminated products.

The vote was 24-18 against boycotting. (Those numbers averaged from a tripartite vote on each toxin. The vote for favoring freedom of dairy choice was strongest, and some members left immedately thereafter, one joking about having rescued his favorite yogurt from oblivion.)

Two member surveys were then proposed. (All member surveys must first be approved by the general meeting.) The "Fun'raising" committee's quiz on what social events members liked best passed 35-1, with Andy Kaufman voting against it, after he said he liked it, because it didn't ask what people disliked. That argument surprisingly killed the next survey, a coordinator's product-questionnaire survey, which was voted down 18-13 because it didn't ask for negative feedback either. A small but politically significant defeat for an otherwise routine staff proposal.

The five-member board of directors, who "convene" after the general meeting ends so that they may confirm for legal reasons the votes of the general meeting, fragmented slightly when one of its two relative rebels suggested that the board vote to confirm proposals' votes individually, rather than collectively. This could have been sparked by the unique tripartite anti-toxin vote, but it does conform to the direct-democracy-and-accountability platform of the rebels. But the other three directors voted down itemization, so the board voted unanimously to confirm the general meeting's votes, and we all got on with our lives, such as they are.

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jkarpf@echonyc.com